The first question out of prospective beekeepers mouths is usually, “So how much honey will I get?”, and our answer is always a little disappointing, because the truth is… we can’t be certain. It depends entirely on the health of your bees, their hive style, your location, the weather and available forage.
You should never plan to harvest in your first year, but you can expect to pull anywhere from 25 - 100 lbs of honey from an established colony in a successful year.
Let’s take a look at the primary variables that will shape your honey harvest:
When aiming for high honey yields, it is important to prioritize the health of your honey bees. A large, healthy colony of bees will be much more successful at foraging nectar and, in turn, converting that nectar to honey. Colonies that are overwhelmed by pests or disease will produce less honey, and likely won’t have the capacity to produce excess honey for the beekeeper. It is important to closely monitor your bees’ health and respond appropriately according to your treatment philosophy and management plan.
When choosing your hive, it is important to keep in mind that the style you use will have an effect on your honey harvest. Langstroth hives are best if you are looking to maximize your honey production due to their large cavity size and ability to expand during the nectar flow. Top bar hives have a fixed cavity size, but will still produce a modest harvest - perfect for beekeepers who want enough honey to share with family and friends. Warre hives fall somewhere in between. If you’d like some guidance on hive styles, start here.
Your honey production will be heavily influenced by the location of your hives. If you live in the north, your beekeeping season will be shorter, giving your bees a shorter foraging period and lowering your yield. In the south, there are longer blooming seasons that often result in greater honey yields. Drier southern regions, however, are prone to long nectar dearths (lack of nectar-producing flowers) that can limit honey production. Talking to experienced beekeepers in your area can help give you an idea of what to expect.
Weather and Forage
Weather plays a big role in bees’ ability to forage. If it is raining heavily, honeybees won’t leave the hive to forage, so prolonged wet spells or unexpected snowfall can severely limit how much honey a colony is able to produce by the end of the season. Unfortunately, climate change is causing a lot of unseasonal weather all over the globe, and we are seeing this directly affect the bees.
If you would like to get a more accurate answer, we recommend hunting down some beekeepers in your area. They will be able to give you a closer estimate that takes the above factors into consideration. Happy harvesting!